Some background information about my mom, lest you have information about her only from her dying days –
As I mentioned in another post, my mom was brilliant. I don’t say that lightly – she truly was brilliant. In 1945, she was offered a half scholarship to Brooklyn Law School – at a time when the terms “women” and “lawyer” were oxymorons. (She turned it down, because I suspect she was not so much a pioneer. And because she wouldn’t have been able to pay the other half of the tuition.) Instead, she became the youngest registrar in the history of Long Island University. Ultimately, she went the way of many women of her generation – she became a teacher.
My mom wasn’t a run-of-the-mill teacher – she was the type that every child dreamed of. Her students and their families stayed in touch with her for years after she had taught them. Just before my mom came up to Boston in 2010, her class of 1979 tracked her down and took her out for a reunion lunch. They decided to sing La Marseillaise, with my mom conducting them, just as she had done all those years ago, when she taught them French. Throughout her 30 years as a teacher, my mom created new generations of people for whom learning was a joy. She gave them a love of Shakespeare, a love of the English language, a love of music, and a love of life beyond Woodhaven, Queens.
When she retired, one of the first things she did was enroll in a class on Ulysses. She had gotten through a life-threatening battle with cancer and many awful side effects, gone back to teaching, and then tackled one of the most challenging books in all of literature. Why? I’ve always wanted to read James Joyce, she answered me, as if that were a no-brainer.
One of the lives my mom touched most profoundly was my dad’s. He seemed to have been smitten with her right from the start, when he leaned over her shoulder in 1945 and said Hiya Toots! She replied, Get off my back! The rest was history. He won her over, and loved her beyond all measure. My dad’s face lit up when my mom came into the room. She was his world.
My mom lit up so many worlds in her lifetime. Her love for life was contagious; everyone was pulled into its orbit. Waiters at French restaurants engaged with her in French, and at Italian restaurants my mom and the waiters spoke together in Italian, gesticulating away! I remember her ease with people. She loved them and they loved her right back.
All in all, my mom had a love affair with life. I know it was mutual.
More tomorrow. Thanks for tuning in.